An Art Lover's Guide to Boston in 24 Hours

MFA Boston
MFA Boston | © Stan S / Flickr

Freelance Writer

There is plenty of beautiful art to see in Boston. From fine art museums and public art displays to local cafés showcasing contemporary art, there is a lot in this historic city for art lovers to experience. Here are some of the best cultural places to see in the city with limited time.

Must-visit museums

The Museum of Fine Arts

The MFA is the fourth largest museum in the United States. Experience fine art from around the world and explore collections that date back to the ancient times. Plan to spend a few hours here to experience all the museum has to offer, from the Art of the Americas to the Art of Oceania and Africa.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 465 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA, USA, +1 617 267 9300

Museum of Fine Arts

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The gorgeous Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was built in 1917 to evoke a 15th-century Venetian Palace. The museum is Isabella Stewart Gardner’s life work. She understood the value of art of a young country, and over her lifetime, she grew the museum’s collection with art from ancient Rome, Medieval Europe, and Asia. View rare books and furniture, and stop in to see the museum’s lovely courtyard. Close to the MFA, it is a perfect second stop on an art lover’s tour.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 25 Evans Way, Boston, MA, USA, +1 617 566 1401

Isabella Stewart Gardner Courtyard

Institute of Contemporary Art

The ICA is a beautiful contemporary art museum located on the Boston Harbor. The modern museum features contemporary art installations of all mediums, from sculptures to paintings to light shows and hanging art. Be sure to check out the outdoor seating area behind the ICA, which often holds events and concerts during the warm months.

Institute of Contemporary Art, 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA, USA, +1 617 478 3100

ICA Boston

Must-visit galleries

Robert Klein Gallery

The Robert Klein Gallery is one of the most exquisite fine art photography galleries in the world. The gallery focus on 19th-century, 20th-century, and modern-day photographs. The showroom participates in art fairs such as Paris Photo, Art Miami, and AIPAD Photography Show in New York. Some of the featured artists include Helen Levitt and Ansel Adams, as well as emerging artists. The gallery also has a satellite installation in the South End bookstore Ars Libri – a rare and out-of-print bookseller.

Robert Klein Gallery, 38 Newbury St Suite 402, Boston, MA, USA, +1 617 267 7997

The Iris Gallery

Located on Newbury Street, The Iris Gallery features fine art photography by contemporary artists. The gallery also has two other locations – one in Aspen, Colorado and another in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. Some of the featured artists include Sean Kernan, Andy Anderson, and Michael Kahn. The gallery also features photography from international artists and some painters.

The Irish Gallery, 129 Newbury St, Boston, MA, USA, +1 413 429 6878

SOWA Artists Guild

The SOWA Artists Guild, located in Boston’s South End neighborhood, is a nonprofit association of professional artists. The guild’s central location features 15 galleries and over 70 artist studios. View art from many of these artists just by visiting. The artists are all unique, from different parts of the world, and they work in a vast variety of mediums. However, they are all dedicated to their art and serious about its quality.

SOWA Artists Guild, 450 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA, USA

Public art

Starry Night

Starry Night is the work of Lisa M. Greenfield and Daniel J. van Ackere as part of Fort Point Arts Community. Come by and check out this beautiful installation at night. Thousands of LED bulbs light up an underpass, shining light into an otherwise dark area. Though the project was only supposed to be up for eight weeks, residents enjoyed the installation so much that it will now be permanent for the next 10 years (from 2014 to 2024).

“Starry Night”, 343 A Street, Boston, MA, USA

Starry Night

Dewey Square

Dewey Square is an area in downtown Boston, at one end of the Rose Kennedy Greenway. On the lawn, there is a giant mural that changes twice a year. Different artists are commissioned to paint work on this giant 70- by 76-foot (21.3- by 23.1-foot) wall to add color and public art to the downtown area. Across the street is historic South Station, and the current mural is a surrealist work by Mehdi Ghadyanloo, a 35-year-old Iranian artist. The work pictured below was the first mural, painted by Brazilian artists Os Gemeos.

Dewey Square, Boston, MA, USA

Dewey Square

May This Never End

May This Never End is the narrative work of Matthew Hoffman. The Chicago artist’s work features four-foot-tall (1.2 meters) yellow letters that read “Nothing’s for keeps. Except that we must keep going. You’ll spend your entire life searching, ok? We all want to belong. So let’s all get along. Make the most, and hope. May this never end.” Walk by this uplifting, colorful narrative-based art, located near Faneuil Hall.

Rose Kennedy Greenway, 185 Kneeland St, Boston, MA, USA, +1 617 292 0020

Cafés and restaurants

Liquid Art House

Liquid Art House is a combination of an art gallery and restaurant. This fine-dining establishment features global cuisine and cocktails as well as art exhibits highlighting art and designers from around the world. Check their site for upcoming contemporary artists and shows. Savor delicious natural meats and fresh seafood from Chef Johnny Sheehan, and enjoy the latest exhibit.

Liquid Art House, 100 Arlington St, Boston, MA, USA, +1 617 457 8130

Thinking Cup

The Thinking Cup has multiple locations in Boston. This coffee shop brews Stumptown coffee and serves delicious desserts and sandwiches. They have beautiful latte art, and the cafés offer a pleasant ambiance with their comfortable chairs and tables with newspapers inside. Meet other artists who are enjoying an afternoon, writing, or reading.

Multiple locations in Boston, MA, USA

Thinking Cup


This artsy café is located in an old bank with an enormous vault. Enjoy healthy locally sourced fare inside Bloc, or sit outdoors on their patio. You’ll likely find many artists working or writing here at this Somerville café. The relaxed ambiance and modern design will encourage you to spend a few hours of time here.

Bloc, 11 Bow St, Somerville, MA, USA, +1 617 623 0000

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